March 22, 2011

March 22, 2011
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My girl Margrit; photo from Robert Mondavi Winery.

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Get your taxes done early this year, kids, because you need to be in wine country the weekend of April 16th and 17th.

The sixth annual Robert Mondavi Discover Wine Tour kicks off Saturday April 16th at the ~ROBERT MONDAVI WINERY~ itself, hosted by the incomparable Margrit Mondavi and Food Network star Ted Allen. Visitors can hop on the Wine 101 and Discovery tours every half hour with a complimentary glass of Robert Mondavi Fumé Blanc, and (for an additional charge) participate in a slew of special experiences, like a To Kalon vineyard tasting, a food and wine pairing seminar hosted by Ted Allen and winery chef Jeff Mosher, and a special six-year vertical tasting of Robert Mondavi Winery’s famous cabernet sauvignon reserve led by director of winemaking, Genevieve Janssens. At noon, Margrit and Ted will share a few choice words about the art of food and wine pairing, which—knowing Margrit—are sure to be both impassioned and inspiring.

Check the full schedule and buy tickets online. Discover Wine Day runs 10am-5pm. 7801 St. Helena Hwy. (Hwy. 29), just north of Oakville Cross Rd., Oakville, 888-766-6328.

On Sunday April 17th, trek over to Green Valley in Sonoma County for the fifth annual Earth Day celebration at ~IRON HORSE VINEYARDS~. This year’s theme is “Our Common Future,” and will feature a curated art exhibit on historical visions of the future (think Jetsons), as well as a conversation between National Geographic’s Boyd Matson and media mogul Ted Turner at 2pm.

General Admission tickets score access to both attractions, plus a walk-around wine and food tasting featuring seven Green Valley wineries, Rocky Mountain Natural bison steak (in honor of Ted Turner’s own buffalo herd), spring veggies, local cheeses, breads, and desserts. VIP ticket holders get all of the above, plus the chance to schmooze with Ted at a private sparkling wine and sustainable caviar reception hosted in the Victorian home of Audrey and Barry Sterling (they also go home with an engraved Riedel flute and a one-ounce jar of tasty fish eggs).

Tickets are available online. Net proceeds from this event benefit The Captain Planet Foundation Ted founded in 1991 to empower and educate youth about ecological issues in their communities. 12pm-4pm. 9786 Ross Station Rd., Sebastopol, 707-887-1507.

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EDK’s wild mushroom and goat cheese pizza; photo by Deirdre Bourdet.

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Ubuntu English pea and fig leaf soup; photo by Deirdre Bourdet.

Sonoma’s ~EL DORADO HOTEL~ has re-opened its former pastry and coffee kiosk as the ~EL DORADO CORNER CAFÉ~. The all-day menu, local wines on tap, and hands-off service inspired by the casual cafés of France and Italy make this an ideal spot to while away an afternoon. The ~EL DORADO KITCHEN~ team produces all the Café’s savory menu items, which include EDK’s famed wild mushroom and goat cheese pizza, truffle fries, and tarragon-steamed mussels, as well as some new hot sandwiches and a superb version of (now-trending) spicy duck wings. Grab a marble-topped table in the main café area, or abscond with your prizes to the sexy lobby lounge. In either space, the enormous windows looking out at the Sonoma Square supply top quality people-watching for those who left their manuscripts at home. Did I mention the duck wings are amazing? 405 1st St. W., Sonoma, 707-996-3030.

In Napa, Michelin-starred chef Aaron London of ~UBUNTU~ is celebrating the arrival of spring vegetables with a bundle of new prix-fixe options. If the six-course, individually plated chef’s tasting menu at $65 per person sounds too formal, you can select your own six-course meal from the à la carte menu for only $50 per person, with each course served family style. The restaurant has also kept its three-course prix-fixe option at lunch and dinner ($35 per person), which offers an astounding value and worthy choices from the regular menu for each course. New additions to the wine list (like a brut rosé sparkler from Sicily and gewürztraminer from the Sonoma Coast), and experiments with infused sake have freshened up the libation options, as well. Beginning March 28th, Ubuntu will be serving dinner seven nights a week, with lunch on Saturdays and Sundays only. 1140 Main St., Napa, 707-251-5656.

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Brin d’Amour; photo by Victoria Pearson.

Cheese aficionada Janet Fletcher is starting a monthly series of cheese and wine pairing classes in downtown Napa, hosted by my friend Dan Dawson’s fabulous wine shop, ~BACK ROOM WINES~. Each 90-minute class will feature six lesser-known artisanal cheeses in their prime, and four wines chosen from Back Room’s international selection of small-production gems. Since you’re in a wine store, you can also pick up a few take-home bottles (or cases) of whatever wine catches your fancy.

“Cheese-and-wine marriages are like real-life marriages sometimes,” says Janet. “There can be clashes and conflict, but also some really sweet moments when soul mates meet. I choose the wines to make sure students have some epiphanies, but they learn from bad matches, too.” Life lessons through eating more cheese and wine? Janet, you’re officially my hero.

“Cheese Meets Wine” is the first Thursday of every month beginning May 5th, making it a tasty entrée to your weekend in wine country. Class size is limited to 12 people, though, so book early to be sure you get the date you want. Janet’s website has all the details and reservation equipment you need. 5:30pm-7pm. 1000 Main St. at 1st St., Napa.